Last night, Tony LaRussa decided that he was bigger than the game.
To say the history between the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals has been both storied and at times a little testy is something of an understatement.
The first sign of bad blood goes all the way back to Game 7 of the 1982 World Series, when Jim Gantner called Joaquin Andujar a “hot dog” (among other things) after grounding out in the seventh inning. Andujar and Gantner shared a heated exchange, but that series may have set the tone for what the future held for these two clubs.
Fast forward to last night. After Takashi Saito accidently hit Albert Pujols with a pitch that was up and in, LaRussa, apparently sick of his players getting thrown at, ordered his hardest thrower, Jason Motte, to plunk Ryan Braun in a childish tit-for-tat contest.
Let me say right here two things:
1) I respect the longevity and success that Tony LaRussa has had. He has forgotten more about baseball than most of us will ever know. You cannot manage in the majors for more than 30 years, win multiple World Series and be an idiot. He is a great manager.
2) I have no problem with teams taking justice into their own hands. If Albert Pujols had come up with no one on and two outs and Saito had gone head-hunting, that would be one thing. Considering the situation both in the game and the standings, it is pretty clear that this was not the case.
That having been said, LaRussa and WTMJ’s Greg Matzek got into it pretty good last night.
LaRussa’s unabridged comments, transcribed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold:
(On the pitch that hit Pujols)
"Yeah, real scary," La Russa said. "They almost got him yesterday too. There's nothing intentional about it. But they throw the ball in here and that's what all those idiots up there -- not idiots -- all those fans up there are yelling. Do you know how many bones there are in the hand? Do you know how many bones there are in the face? That's where those pitches are. And Braun -- we were trying to pitch him in too, and it was just a little stinger. I don't want to even hear about Braun getting a little pop in the back, when we almost lose this guy (Pujols) in several ways. The ball up and in is a dangerous pitch."
(It looked like the intent was to hit Braun.)
"You don't think they were trying to throw the ball intentionally up and in?" La Russa responded. "We weren't trying to hit Braun either. We did not hit Braun on purpose. We threw two balls in there real good just to send a message. If he ducks them, it's all over and we don't hit him. The ball they tried to throw on Pujols was aimed right where they aimed it. Did they try to hit him? No. But there's a small window here. You know how close that is to your face and your hands?
"I don't want to hear about our tactics vs. what they did," La Russa continued. "They did not make an intentional hit, but they tried to throw the ball up and in. It's a very dangerous pitch and we almost paid a hell of a price. Just look at the location and potential danger of the two (pitches).
I know that he has the deserved respect of everyone within the game of baseball. However in this case, Tony LaRussa is wrong. He was wrong to take offense to a pitch that slipped away from Takashi Saito, he was wrong in ordering Jason Motte to hit Braun, and he was wrong to try to insult our collective intelligence to say that the second pitch to Braun wasn’t trying to hit him.
In this case, the Emperor wears no clothes.